While making an overseas trip may not be the first thing on your mind if you have recently added a new member to your family, if you’d be so inclined you should definitely consider Japan. Japan, including the capital, Tokyo, is a surprisingly family-friendly holiday destination. As traveling with babies is always a bit of a challenge, it is good to be prepared so you can to make everyone’s travel experience a great one. Here are 7 tips on how to travel with a baby in Japan for your best family trip to the Land of the Rising Sun!
Clothing for Travel
Packing and dressing smart is half of the work of making any long haul trip as stress free as possible. First of all, it is always a good idea to travel as light as possible. As most accommodations have laundry machines on the premises and coin laundromats are also ubiquitous in Japan, you shouldn’t worry about packing a change of clothes for every travel day. Bringing 4 or 5 sets of clothing per person is enough for most people, and for babies you may want to bring one extra set for little accidents that happen on the go. Bringing one comfortable vest or light jacket for everyone is also a good idea, as temperatures can differ quite a lot between air conditioned spaces and outside. If you travel during the winter , make sure that some of your clothing is thermal clothing, as conditions can be cold and humid. If you don’t have that type of clothing yet, you can buy ‘heat tech’ for a good price at Uniqlo.
Family Friendly Accommodation
Many hotels in Japan cater to business travelers, meaning that the rooms are small and so are the beds. Business style hotels are great for budget conscious people who travel solo or as a couple, but for families, they tend to be too cramped. If you travel with a baby or bigger kids that you want to stay in the same room with, you’d better make sure that the accommodations you book are family friendly. Bigger resorts tend to have family rooms that are spacious and can sleep larger groups, and they also often have special kid rooms where babies and toddlers can play safely. You can also opt for a whole apartment or even house to yourself through services like Airbnb, especially if you prefer to cook(most of) your own meals. And if you don’t mind a bit of a splurge, luxury ryokan can also be a very comfortable lodging option for those traveling with kids.
Public Transportation in Japan
While traveling through Japan in a rental car is possible, we recommend families with young children to travel by train. Unlike in some countries, train and bus travel is convenient and comfortable in Japan, and it can also be surprisingly affordable. Longer distances are usually best traveled by shinkansen, the super fast bullet train that is an experience in its own. There is ample space, and you can take a walk through the long train with your kids if they get restless. The JR pass is what makes the shinkansen affordable for foreign tourists, and kids under 6 travel for free.
Baggage Shipping Service
If you are using public transportation to get around in Japan, you may be worried about lugging your large suitcases along with you and your baby. Luckily, for those who didn’t manage to travel light, there is a great service available in Japan. The so-called Takuhaibin service can help you ship your large pieces of luggage from one accommodation to the next for as little as 1500 JPY. Hands-free traveling has never been this easy before! If you stay in a hotel, the front desk can take care of the shipping process for you. Are you staying in self arranged accommodation? In that case, you can get assistance in English by phone to find out where to drop off your luggage.
Bring a Baby Carrier and a Lightweight Stroller
Getting around can be a challenge if you have one of those large baby strollers that can weigh a ton, especially if you want to use public transportation or want to visit places that can only be reached by taking the stairs. What we recommend is to do what the local parents do, and bring a baby carrier. In Japan, parents usually carry their kids until they are around 1 and a half years old and start to walk on their own. It is so much easier to move around that way, and babies tend to be quieter if they are carried around. If your baby is a bit older but can’t walk longer distances yet, a combination of a carrier and a lightweight stroller can be the winner.
Baby Friendly Spaces in Japan
There are many public places in Japan that were designed for the needs of young parents. Newer public toilets in parks as well as in places like shopping malls have clean and spacious accessible toilets with diaper changing stations and small seats where babies can safely sit until the parent is done. Many malls also have nursing rooms near the toilets that can be used for breastfeeding. In Japan, breastfeeding in public is acceptable as long as you use a blanket to stay discreet.
Plan for Extra Time
One of the most important things to do if you travel to Japan with a baby or young kids is not to pack your itinerary too tight. As things always don’t go exactly the way you planned them, you will greatly decrease your chances for any travel stress if you leave enough extra time in your schedule to deal with these unforeseen circumstances. Besides, isn’t it much more enjoyable and relaxing to leave yourself plenty of time to actually soak up your surroundings and enjoy the details instead of just trying to cram as many things as you can into your trip? The best way to do this is to limit the number of cities you visit in one travel week to 2 and to only make day trips to places that are easily accessible from the city your accommodation is in. This way, you will maximize your travel time without losing out on many of the beautiful things that can be seen and done in Japan.
Family Friendly Tours in Japan
If you do your best to stick to the tips mentioned above, you should not have too many issues traveling with young children in Japan. Generally, amenities that make life with babies easier are readily accessible in Japan, especially in larger cities. Another good idea is to book a private guide for one or more days. This can help make your trip even easier as companies like us can make any necessary preparations to make your day smooth, fun, and educational. We offer private tours in Tokyo , Kyoto , Osaka, as well as other cities in Japan. If your kids are a bit older, we also have a special Harajuku tour for the whole family. We hope that your trip to Japan with your baby is a safe, fun and memorable experience!
Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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